I started teaching yoga and social circus skills all over New York City in 2005. It was, in many ways, a trial by fire. I had the unique opportunity to work with amazing, inspiring youth of all ages, from all demographic backgrounds-- often in the course of one day. I learned that my job as a teacher was not only to teach physical skills, but to listen, to empower, to support, to believe in the highest potential of each child that walks through the door. I learned that it is my responsibility to help keep them safe and offer them with tools to make themselves safer.
Here is a break down of resources and tangible tools that will help you, help the children in your life.
Take this Training
Currently, one in ten children will experience sexual abuse before their eighteenth birthday. Everyone who works with children should be educated on how to prevent that abuse and support the children in our communities, whether you are a kids yoga teacher, mandated reporter, parent or community member. Darkness to Light offers online and in person trainings that are comprehensive and give tangible actions you can take.
Trust your Intuition
Sam Harris interviews Gavin Van de Becker, "one of the world's leading experts on prediction and violence prevention", about the current state of violence in the United States and how it can be prevented. Van de Becker resists giving any advice for 90% of the two hour and twenty minute interview-- but when he does offer advice, it is some of the best I have heard. Listen to the entirety to understand context and why you need to trust your intuition.
"Waking Up Podcast #90 Living with Violence"
Empower Consent & the Power of No
Have you ever walked up to another adult and pinched their cheeks or demanded a kiss? This sounds like an absurd action for an adult to do to another adult, but happens to babies and children frequently. We can watch for cues of consent or dissent with humans as young as newborn babies, they turn away or cringe their physical body when they don't want a certain touch. We can watch and support the non-verbal communication of babies and toddlers, by not forcing their acceptance of touch or affection that they do not want.
As adults, we can easily encourage and empower children to own their own bodies by asking and accepting "no" in a neutral tone, "May I have a hug? No? I respect your body and your decision." This phrase encourages respect for the child, their decisions and can send a cue to other adults in the room, that this is our basic expectation of interaction. This article by The Girl Scouts pertains to ALL children everywhere and offers a great synopsis of why we no longer need to hug anyone, ever.
Kid's and Family yoga classes can be a great, fertile ground to hold a container in which children can listen to their own bodies and empowering consent. Classes can start by offering children the opportunity to take resting poses, like child's pose-- this encourages that they start by listening to their bodies and their energy level more than the authority figure, the teacher. We can easily weave in simple games where children are encouraged to say yes or no, with no emotional attachment.
My intention in offering yoga for children is to empower embodiment and awareness. It has become relevant that we can make this a safe place for children to say no and for parents to listen. If a child, doesn't feel good in a partner yoga pose-- then they don't have to do it. I hope, if a child can say "yes" to themselves and "no" to authority figures in a yoga studio, which is a neutral environment and be accepted, then they may be able to do it in a more difficult situation.